June 21, 2004

All It Takes Is Five Hands...

"We are free at last, free at last...There is no respect in which we are chained or bound by the text of the Constitution. All it takes is five hands."

Those were the words of Justice Scalia in an interview last March.

Five hands is all it took to cripple any notions that your privacy has to be respected by agents of the state. Nashville Files reports that the decision in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the state of Nevada came down today. For some background see this previous post of mine as well as this site which has a rather impressive number of links about the case.

Here's the court's opinion written by Kennedy & joined by Rehnquist, O'Conner, Scalia & Thomas. There were two written dissents: one written by Stevens & the other written by Breyer & joined by Souter & Ginsburg.

The bottom line is the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 vote that the interests of the government negated any interests of the person in not demonstrating his identity. They think it's perfectly acceptable that you be required to divulge your personal information upon demand by any agent of the state under penalty of arrest. Interestingly enough, Scalia's hand was one of the five raised in defiance of the 4th & 5th Amendments.

There are many problems with the logic of this decision but it'll be quite a while before they bother to hear any cases arising from this ruling. Most of us are used to producing I.D.'s for the cops as the majority of time we're driving when we encounter them & most state's require to furnish a driver's license on demand for any cop while driving. Now you may have to get used to carrying I.D. with you while walking or riding with a friend, lest you be caught short when you hear the modern phraseology of that old cliche of dictatorships, "your papers please".

Check out all the links above.

Posted by Publicola at June 21, 2004 03:14 PM

is it really that suprising to anyone that the justices reasoning 'interests of the government negated any interests of the person' is a mirror of the old communist dictim “the state presents itself as the first ideological power over man”.

Posted by: dave at June 22, 2004 07:27 AM

They didn't rule that Mr. Hiibel was required to show ID, just that he was required to give his name. That's what the Nevada statute that he violated mandated. The ruling says that the Supreme Court already invalidated as vague a California law that required a person to produce "credible and reliable" identification.

You can be sure that it will be misinterpreted by cops in the field, though, and woe be it to those who refuse them now. I would also not be surprised to see this court OK a law requiring the showing of a driver's license or state-issued drinking ID, since that would not be vague.

But here's my favorite response to the decision, from the smith2004-discuss Yahoo group:

"Fuck the Supreme Court. I don't live my life based on the opinions of nine political hacks in dowdy black dresses." -- Tom Knapp

Posted by: Bill St. Clair at June 22, 2004 11:33 AM
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